In the past few weeks I’ve been having fun experiencing and thinking about spaces in fiction that can’t physically exist. Like a door that should lead outside but goes to a hallway instead. Or rooms that are too big to fit in a building. Or corridors that twist and turn so that you ought to have looped back to where you came from by now, but for some reason you haven’t. I like it all!
(There’s a big overlap with the recently-popular “Liminal” aesthetic, where you take or create pictures of eerily empty spaces* and pretend that they’re just outside of our regularly scheduled reality.)
Anyway, I want more, and I wanted to make a list of where I’ve been already. Not all of these are things I’ve taken in very recently; some are from several years back, but all of them tickled that part of my brain that says “this place shouldn’t be like this!” In games particularly, I often enjoy things that mess with my sense of geography and direction. It’s a list-based blog post, everybody! Let’s go!
*note: Not everything in this list is a strong recommendation from me! But, if something here seems interesting to you, by all means, check it out.
- House of Leaves – This book is layered and crazy for a variety of reasons, but the main story involves a new door appearing in a house one day, and instead of leading out to the yard it leads to a black labyrinth.
- Superliminal – Parts of it, anyway. This a first-person puzzle game set in a sort of dream hotel.
- Silent Hill and Silent Hill 2 – These are third-person psychological horror games both that delve into late-game spatial shenanigans. The first game has a mapless area called “Nowhere”, which mashes together rooms from previous places you’ve visited. The second has a section with stairways, holes, and elevators that lead the protagonist impossibly far down into the earth.
- Piranesi – This was a really recent read! This is a book about a nice man who lives in a house of endless corridors, stairs, and statues. The lower floors are flooded by tides, the upper floors are collapsing in places and open to the sky. Piranesi (the main character) had such a fascinating mindset to me.
- Manifold Garden – This was also very recent, like last week (as of this writing). A gorgeous Portal-style first-person puzzle game in a strange world with no boundaries. Sort of?
- The Backrooms (Found Footage) – A YouTube series, soon to be a major motion picture, based on an old meme in which people find themselves in an infinite series of kinda bland and flourescently lit rooms. There is a monster in some of these, and I tend to agree with the folks who think it isn’t necessary; I enjoy the unease of the place just existing all on its own.
- Severance – This is an Apple TV series about a group of people working in a dystopian corporate nightmare, and while it’s not a focal point of the series, the hallways and corridors that the workers traverse are deliberately mazelike and confusing for viewers.
- Control – In a game full of creepy ideas and wonderful brutalist architecture, one particular section (The Ashtray Maze) really stands out for a lot of players. The design of the area is based on the hotel in Barton Fink, which I just learned. Walls and corridors open and close around you with this intricate folding animation, and even before any real action goes down there, it feels delightfully uncanny just to stand in. [Also, can I just note, what a heckin’ trailer! Wow!]
- Ikea stores – I mean, have you been to these places IRL? Even though they’re very large, they seem even bigger inside, and the showroom disorients you immediately and then taunts you with “shortcuts” that seem to lead directly back to where you just came from.
That’s the list so far! What I want to note is that several of these are at least horror-adjacent, but I don’t need them to be in order to enjoy them; Piranesi had no scary elements (beyond the idea of living mostly alone in a house of mystery) but I enjoyed it immensely. If you have further recs for me, you can’t put them in the comments here because I’ve disabled them, so find another way to tell me about them lol
Thing I Saw: I should note somewhere, for posterity, that “AI” technology is absolutely blowing up everywhere. I use Microsoft’s Edge browser and as of pretty recently there’s a dedicated button to let you chat, in conversational English, with their Bing AI thingy. I don’t really know what it’s for, aside from helping you do really specific searches in your own words? And let’s be honest, at this point most “AI” is fancy autocomplete based on tons of our own writing on the internet. But still it is having a moment and I wanted to note that here.
Thing I Learned (Feat. Guest Writer, Bing AI) “AI-generated content can be a useful tool for bloggers who want to create engaging and relevant posts for their audience. AI can help with generating ideas, writing catchy headlines, summarizing key points, and adding some personality to the text. AI can also save time and effort for bloggers who need to produce content regularly and consistently. However, AI-generated content is not a substitute for human creativity and expertise. Bloggers should always review and edit the content before publishing it, and make sure it reflects their own voice and style.” So there you have it.
I’m Grateful For: Trustworthy local veterinarians. I recently had a small emergency visit with Gideon Cat, which I may describe in a future post, and every time I visit I’m aware that they have the power to make up pretty much any price for any service and people will probably pay it because…what’re you gonna do? You likely have no frame of reference for the cost of these services, and it’s your beloved pet’s health on the line! So all this is to say that I think we have good vets here.